Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth on Sunday announced the Australian Government will provide grant funding of up to $7.8 million to Western Australia disability employment provider, Activ Foundation, to keep its large-scale industrial work sites open for another 18 months to better support the transition of employees into new placements.
This is part of the Government’s election commitment to improve employment outcomes for people with disability.
In May, Activ Foundation announced its intention to close its large-scale industrial work sites in Western Australia, where more than 750 supported employees with disability currently work.
The closures were to commence from mid-July 2022.
Minister Rishworth said she was concerned that the timeframes originally announced by Activ did not provide enough time to work with these employees and their families to assist them to move into other employment.
“Many of the supported employees have been with Activ for decades and this announcement came as a significant shock to them. We need to put these employees first and make sure they receive the support they need to manage this significant transition in their lives,” Minister Rishworth said.
Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Bill Shorten said supported employment provides more than just work but also an opportunity for people with disability to develop in the community.
“We know how important this work is in the lives of supported employees,” Minister Shorten said.
“Work provides more than just new skills and experience – it brings a sense of purpose and direction, and allows employees to forge new social connections.
“This funding underlines the Government’s commitment to people with disability and the sectors that support them.”
Minister Rishworth said the Australian Government agreed to support the transition for Activ employees by providing funding to the Activ Foundation which will enable much needed additional time for these employees.
“This funding will slow the closure of the work sites, from a few weeks to 18 months. During this time, all of the 756 employees may continue working with Activ in their roles, if they wish to do so, meaning they have a guarantee of continuing employment in the immediate future,” Minister Rishworth said.
The McGowan Government will also provide a funding pool of $4 million to support Western Australian-based Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) through the transition period.
The grants will help the organisations build contemporary service models and associated workforce capability.
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan raised the imminent closure of Activ with the Australian Government shortly after the election and has welcomed the prompt action of the Australian Government to commit funding to support the transition of Activ support employees over the next 18 months.
“This funding, combined with Western Australia’s funding commitment will support an orderly transition that ensures supported employees working at Activ work sites have time to make informed choices about their future and people with disability have continued access to services,” said Premier McGowan.
Western Australian Minister for Disability Services Don Punch said Western Australia’s $4 million funding contribution will support sustainable jobs for ADEs to employ Activ supported employees over the 18 month transition period and provide equitable treatment of ADEs.
“This support will not only alleviate the stress and anxiety from supported employees but also from their families who at one stage did not know where to turn,” said Minister Punch.
The Commonwealth Government will also stand up a joint taskforce of the Department of Social Services, the National Disability Insurance Agency and the Western Australian Government’s Office of Disability to ensure employees find suitable alternative employment before the closure of Activ’s work sites.
The taskforce will work with supported employees, their families, advocates, the supported employment sector in Western Australia and peak bodies to manage this significant transition.
Minister Rishworth said the taskforce will work across the community to identify a range of opportunities for impacted supported employees to consider.
This might include community-based work, or other supported employment depending on the employee’s preference.
“Through this, we will work to make the transition smoother and easier for the supported employees impacted by Activ’s decision. Our goal is to find all employees new, equally fulfilling opportunities,” Minister Rishworth said.
“We want to encourage the fullest participation of all people with disability in society, including employment, giving them a sense of fulfilment through contributing to their local communities and also to the wider Australian economy.”
Support is available from participation Local Area Coordinators, support coordinators or through the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).